A little while ago I had a conversation with one of my friends about asexuality and fetishes. She wondered if there were any people out there who fetishized asexuals, did a google search and (of course) didn’t find anything relevant. I don’t think asexuality is well known enough yet for people to start fetishizing it, but I think it’s just about inevitable that at some point, someone will. I’ve already seen a sketch of “asexual porn” after all, which, although facetious, just goes to show that if it exists, there’s porn of it. (There’s no way I could link to this sketch, though, since it was on a high-traffic image forum on which posts usually don’t last even a few hours. For the record, this sketch was meant to be a picture of two asexual people lying there naked, doing nothing.) I don’t know why on earth someone would find this sexy, but apparently some people do.
The idea, though, is very uncomfortable. Asexuals are just about the last people on earth who would want to be fetishized. I have a hard enough time dealing with just being sexually attractive, let alone being attractive because I don’t have any desire for sex. How’s that for a paradox?
Exactly one year and one week ago (according to my chat transcripts), M actually told me something to that effect. His exact words were:
[05:20] M: ironically, your passivity towards sexuality, is actually what makes you sexy
[05:21] M: it’s weird
[05:21] M: lol
[05:21] Me: really
[05:21] M: yeah its hard to describe
[05:21] M: ol
[05:22] Me: so what, is it like an I’m not interested so you feel more like… it’s more of a challenge…effect?
[05:23] M: njo
[05:23] M: its just eerie and fascinating to imagine/see a sexual persona in an otherwise sexless creature.
[05:24] Me: hmm
[05:24] M: you’re just a weirdo. how about that.
[05:24] M: and weirdo’s are sexy.
[05:25] M: i mean, given other criteria are met
[05:25] M: but yeah. lol
I’m not sure if I agree with his perception of my attitude towards sexuality as passive, though I can certainly understand why he would have seen me that way. I had never actively pursued sexual activity before meeting him, never had any interest. (The only reason I was even interested in him was, ironically, because I had already realized that I had no interest in sex. I wasn’t sexually attracted to him, but I was so attracted to him in other ways that I realized that was as good as it was ever going to get.) I would never have pursued him, but since he sort of fell into my lap, well… I was extremely passive with him because I was so out of my depth; I had no idea what to do, and no instinct to rely on. The few things I actually wanted to do, I didn’t, out of fear that he would interpret them as sexual (rather than purely sensual), and get even more confused. So, although I am admittedly fairly passive in general, I am actually not quite so much so as I must have appeared to him at first. And, to nitpick, I am hardly passive towards sexuality as a concept, just disinterested (a more accurate word) in it in practice.
But, okay. Aside from the slightly inaccurate choice of words, I can sort of see that. I would have had him explain more fully, but he refused on the basis that I needed more of an incentive to come and visit him (I didn’t really), and we never revisited the conversation. Coming from someone else, I might have found it somewhat creepy, but coming from him, it was only slightly uncomfortable (mostly because, at the time, I wasn’t sure he accepted me as an asexual person). Now, I no longer find it uncomfortable, but just (indeed, as he said) rather eerie.
Going back to the conversation I had with my friend the other day, she said that the idea of asexuality as a fetish reminded her of doll fetishism. I can definitely see similarities there, especially in light of what M said to me about my passivity, a trait that is certainly evident in dolls by virtue of their being inanimate. Dolls are inhuman, something that asexuals are often thought to be (not literally, of course, but certainly there is a reluctance to apply the word to human beings, since most are used to only hearing it in the context of microorganisms and such). Dolls are objects, and as such, they cannot possibly have a sexuality. It is thrust upon them by the imaginations of humans, and they have no will to deny it.
I must admit, I have always found doll fetishism pretty creepy. It’s harmless, I guess, for those men who indulge in Real Dolls or something like that without inflicting their fantasies on actual women. It strikes me as a very unhealthy fascination, though, if transferred to them, due to its inherently imbalanced power dynamic. Of course, women do not like to be treated as objects, to have their basic humanity denied, and even more dangerous is the idea that the man has the ability to thrust his imagined sexuality onto her without regard for her actual desires (after all, a doll has none, so if he’s really, truly treating her like he would a doll, then there’s a problem), with the even more problematic idea that it comes from the lady herself, welling up from such a deeply buried place that perhaps even she is not aware of it (thus allowing the fetishist to excuse the disparity between his delusion—for at this point it is most certainly a delusion—and her behavior). There must be a very clear line drawn between fantasy and reality, or else this will tread quickly into non-consensual territory.
Truth be told, what M said to me back then did make me think of doll fetishism. It’s hard not to think of it, because as an asexual gothic lolita, I suppose I am as close to being a living doll as one could possibly get. I play with the imagery of dolls, adopt their aesthetics into my own fashion, parade around in ribbons and lace just to earn odd looks. I am often told that it suits me well, I suppose mostly because my body type is similar to a classic image of beauty, of the type often found in porcelain dolls (there is certainly something flippant in my appropriation of that image, as I am well aware of the politics behind it). My personality, too, is doll-like: cool, passive, unemotional. Asexuality has a lot to do with it, as well; most modern clothes I find too sexualized for me to be entirely comfortable wearing them. I dislike showing off my body, because I don’t like being the target of sexual interest I cannot return. I don’t mind being attractive, but I don’t like to be sexually attractive. I have little control over whether other people find me to be so, but at least I can present myself in a way that expresses my disidentification with sexuality, and appreciation for (some) Victorian ideals, interpreted with a modern twist. Most people find it too weird to be attractive.
Of course, there are plenty of people out there who, not understanding the aesthetic and ideology behind it, interpret this as fetish play, especially because of the gothic elements and similarity to cosplay. Most gothic lolitas will get all up in arms at any suggestion of a sexual element to their subculture, because (despite the nominal similarity to Vladimir Nobokov’s book) there is none. Even for those lolitas (the majority, I’m sure) who are sexual, the fashion is not about sexuality. It’s not about being attractive to men. It’s about expression of self. In a way, although it appropriates images of women from a time when many more restrictions were placed on them, it is very much a feminist fashion. It’s about being youthful, adorable, and elegant rather than sexy. In large part, it’s about the freedom of girlhood—a nostalgic ode to it, a mourning of its inevitable passing. It is rebellious because by donning lolita garments, we remove ourselves from the mainstream, and indulge in a decadent fantasy persona not bound by the expectations and burdens placed ever more heavily on women as their years increase (I recently read an article that said that according to a recent study, women’s happiness level peaks at age twenty, while men are relatively unhappy in their youth, and their happiness level increases as they get older. Unfortunately I don’t have a link to it). To interpret gothic lolita as fetish wear is to destroy the entire concept, because it places burdens of sexuality on women who are (at least for a short time) trying to escape it.
I imagine that asexual fetishism would run into a lot of the same problems as doll fetishism and lolicon (lolita complex). All three involve a sexual fascination with a non-sexual person or human-like object (almost always female), and projection of an imagined sexual persona onto that object, who wants neither to be sexualized nor objectified. It says more about the person with the fetish than the object of it. What she wants doesn’t matter. It’s not about her actual desires; it’s about what he wants her to desire. And to the person being fetishized, that is a disgusting and frightening thought. If he has such little regard for what she wants or doesn’t want, then what is stopping him from taking her by force? In a lot of cases, especially with lolicon (of the pedo variety), that does happen. To invoke a mindset similar to that of those who would commit such a crime is quite a scary thing.
However, as I said, I’m no longer bothered by M’s statement. This is because I am now fairly certain that he recognizes me as a truly asexual person (although he still thinks asexuality is a disability), so even though his perception of reality is different from mine, he at least has a good grasp on it. I am also sure that he never meant to hurt me, and would have respected (continued to respect) my wishes if I had told him what they were. It’s not like he had been having rape fantasies or anything of the sort; it’s just that his imagining a sexual persona of mine made me edgy because I wasn’t sure if he believed that he was seeing it, or just making things up to fill in the gaps between what he was seeing and what was really there. Perhaps he wasn’t sure either. Perhaps it was a little of both. After all, I do have a somewhat vaguely almost sexual persona, though I quashed most of my desires around him for fear that he would interpret them in light of his own imagination rather than seeing them in the same way that I saw them, and thus think they were somehow indicative of more buried desires, and that it would be okay to take things even further. It was difficult, especially since a lot of what went on between us was nonverbal, to be sure of how he was interpreting my actions. I think a lot of it had to do with him seeing things as sexual that I don’t. He apparently had some misconceptions about what asexuals are able to feel, and this without any confusion due to my grayness (which I never told him about, since he didn’t want to listen). Even things I consider pretty neutral, he seemed to interpret as being sexual (for example, making out). I can see how he could have constructed a sexual persona for me in his mind from things that he had seen me do, and although that idea is strange and somewhat difficult for me to deal with, I think it’s fairly normal. I don’t mind it as long as I know for sure that he knows what’s really going on. Which is another reason I never mentioned being gray-asexual: I wanted to make sure that he didn’t have a tendency to interpret his own fantasy sexual persona for me as reality, and would instead listen to me and let me construct my own persona without questioning my asexual identity.
To boil it down a bit: my problem with this mindset reflected in doll fetishism, and potentially asexual fetishism if it ever comes into existence, is about how these people view reality, and about whether they respect the wishes of the people they are fantasizing about. It creeps me out because if they don’t, then it can turn into a potentially very dangerous situation for the person being fetishized. Otherwise, it could possibly be okay, though I would still find it quite uncomfortable to be the object of such fantasies. At this point, it is a little bit far removed from reality anyway to consider the possibility of asexual fetishism, but it’s interesting to speculate anyway.